Monash University

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China - Pakistan relations

posted on 2017-02-06, 03:09 authored by Ali, Ghulam
From the start of their relations until the early 1960s, China and Pakistan maintained a relationship which was neither particularly warm nor close. During this period, both sides were engaged in national construction and had affiliated with opposite security blocs. In the early 1960s, Sino-Pakistan relations took an upward turn resulting mainly from the emergence of India as a common security concern. China began to provide military and economic assistance including with transfer of technology, and backed Pakistan on Indo-Pakistan disputes. This pattern of relations began to change in the late 1970s with the advent of new leadership in China. The new Chinese leadership, for its own interests, expanded its South Asia policy beyond Pakistan and started normalization of relations with India by taking a relatively neutral stance on Indo-Pakistan disputes. China also changed its aid policy from grants to loans and stressed the need for increased economic and trade ties. Despite these adjustments, the overall relationship between Beijing and Islamabad remained stable and close. The two countries developed, over a long period of time, developed a commonality of interests based on their shared geography, common security concerns vis-à-vis India, an early border settlement, equality and mutual support, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, fulfilment of commitments made with each other, and regular contacts between the top-level leaderships. The tenuous nature of US-Pakistan relations also pushed Islamabad closer to Beijing. The reciprocal nature of this relationship was another factor in its stability. In return for China’s economic, political and military assistance, Pakistan played a key role, especially during the Cold War, in breaking China’s isolation, opening it up to the Muslim world, facilitating Sino-US rapprochement and getting China into the UN. Islamabad continues to support Beijing on crucial issues such as Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang and human rights. Their cooperation expanded from bilateral to multilateral forums such as SAARC, SCO and the UN. The start of joint production in both the defence and economic sectors, Pakistan’s role in helping China fight separatism in Xinjiang as well as acting a “trade and energy corridor” will be important for their future partnership. This partnership is a good example of stable relations between two states. However, this relationship is neither “unique” nor “stronger than steel” as often claim by them. This partnership also faces certain challenges such as terrorism, growing political instability in Pakistan, a burgeoning trade imbalance and a lack of people-to-people contacts. Aside from these challenges, there appears to be no evidence to suggest that the relationship will face any major change in the foreseeable future.


Principal supervisor

Bruce Jacobs

Additional supervisor 1

Dennis Woodward, Joel Alkinson

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Languages, Cultures and Linguistics


Doctor of Philosophy

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Faculty of Arts

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